Howl's Moving Castle



Young girl turned old lives with a wizard.

What parents need to know

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Howl drinks brandy and gets drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's not much to concern parents here.

What's the story?

Sophie is trapped in her life as the responsible eldest daughter who runs the family hat business and has nothing to look forward to. Everything changes when the evil Witch of the Waste bursts into her shop and, for mysterious reasons, turns her into an old woman. Wandering away from town she finds herself alone in the wilderness at night, and stumbles across the titular castle, owned by a wizard rumored to take the souls of young girls.

Once there she makes a deal with a captive fire demon -- if she breaks the contract between the demon and Howl, the demon will lift the spell on Sophie. There's only one problem -- no one can tell her what the contract is, or how to break it.

Is it any good?


Diana Wynne Jones writes the old-fashioned kind of fantasy: fascinating and original, but slow and meandering. Once Sophie settles in at the castle, it's hard to say what the story is about for the next couple of hundred pages. That's not to say it's boring -- far from it. But, much like the castle that wanders around in the wilderness, it doesn't seem to go much of anywhere, or to have a definite purpose.

Eventually there's a nice climactic showdown; though much of it happens offstage, so to speak, a few secrets and surprises are revealed, and it's wrapped up satisfyingly. Die-hard fantasy lovers adore this and other Wynne Jones books, but those who need action, adventure, or a clear plotline may find it too murky.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like suddenly to be old, to have a child's mind in an elderly body. There's a lot about adulthood and old age that children don't know or understand, and they may be interested to try to imagine Sophie's predicament.

Book details

Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:June 14, 2005
Number of pages:336
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byLittleRobot July 8, 2010


I read this book when I was 15. It's great. Wonderful story, very uplifting!
What other families should know
Great messages
Adult Written byTeachermom111569 June 26, 2012

A Satisfying Read For A Wide Age Range

This is a thought-provoking book that makes a good read-aloud for families. Although it is not difficult to read, the plot is complicated with lots of surprises, making it a satisfying read for both kids and teens. I am reading this out loud to my 8 year old son, but it would be a stretch for him to read on his own. My daughter read it in 4th grade. It's not an action-packed adventure, so kids who need action to enjoy a book will probably not like this one. Story: The female protagonist, Sophie, is plagued with self-doubt until she is magically turned into an old woman. Although this transformation is intended as a curse, and it is the incident that sets the rest of the plot in motion, Sophie is in many ways freer as a crone than she was as a maiden. On her quest to break the curse, she meets an interesting and morally ambiguous cast of supporting characters. Although the story involves magic, it feels more like realistic fiction or a fairy tale. Magic and fantasy provide the background; the characters are the meat of the story. If you like to read and talk about stories as a family, this book provides a lot of opportunities.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written bymoodystuff449 December 23, 2010


I don't know WHAT you people are talking about. This is the BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ IN MY ENTIRE LIFE! I've read it 4 times! It's the first book in the Castle series and by far my favourite! The book was hilarious, well written, the characters were well developed, and the story line was perfect! The movie was good but they over did the romance a LOT. The fighting between Howl and Sophie was absolutely hilarious! I swear there is not a better book out there. You have just come across the BEST book of all time!
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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